Brand: Hobbyboss 80207
Markings: Hasegawa 64762 F-8E Crusader “Shin Kazama”
The F-5E Tiger II is an upgrade of the F-5A Tiger. Introduced in 1970, it has more powerful engines, a lengthened and enlarged fuselage, larger fuel capacity, better avionics, better aerodynamics and more crucially, a radar. The F-5E would prove to be a successful combat aircraft for US allies, serving in at least a dozen air forces for decades with a total of 1,400 Tiger IIs built from 1957 to 1987. 500 are still in service all over the world as of 2014.
Area 88 is a Japanese manga series by Kaoru Shintani serialized between 1979 and 1986. The story follows Shin Kazama, a young pilot in Area 88, a mercenary air base in the desert of the war-torn Kingdom of Aslan. Duped into signing on as a mercenary pilot, he is bound to Area 88 on a three-year contract. He is determined to earn $1.5 million to buy his way out of the obligation and return home.
The subject of this build is Shin Kazama’s custom painted F-5E Tiger II that he flew from Chapters 5 to 10 of the manga. The F-5E was the first of his aircraft to be adorned with the flaming unicorn logo on its tail. Kazama would crash the F-5E in Chapter 10.
For an aircraft with so much history and users, modelers are not served well in the model kit front for this aircraft. Released in 2011, this Hobbyboss kit was the most modern and was the only one with recessed panel lines until DreamModel came along with their release in 2020. Comprised of 3 runners (2 gray, 1 clear) and 80 parts, this kit is a simplified take on the F-5E:
- panel lines are recessed but look excessively wide and deep
- details are basic with only the major panel lines addressed although the wheel well details are nicely done
- one major miss are the louvered doors on the fuselage, aft of the trailing edge of the wingroot. Interestingly the boxart is correct in this detail
- the nose and LERX only gets you the original F-5E variant and not the later ‘shark-nose’ variants
- instrument panel and consoles have raised details but decals are also provided
- a pilot figure is included although it doesn’t look goo
- the ejection is basic although made up of three part
- canopy can be posed open but the canopy actuator is severely simplified and inaccurate
- an external inflight refueling probe is provided but I think it’s not suitable to the nose and LERX type of this variant
- option for landing gear down only
- weapons include 2x AIM-9 Sidewinders and 2x 250lb dumb bombs
- stores include 3x fuel tanks (1x centerline, 2x wing)
- decal options for four F-5Es (US Navy VFC-13, USMC VMFT-401, Brazil 1st Hunting Group, Swiss 19th Squadron). Printing is nice and clear but I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the stencils. The stencils also looks oversize
In any case, I believe this kit has been superseded by the DreamModel release which offers a lot better details. However, with the low parts count this should be a quick build if the fitting is decent. It’s also cheap compared to the DreamModel.
I managed to get my hands on a decently priced Hasegawa Area 88 F-8E kit which jumpstarted this build. That kit came with the flaming unicorn head markings and, unbeknownst to me, a resin figure of Shin Kazama. This kit builds up very quickly due to the simplified parts breakdown and generally decent fit. There are however issues with:
- a big gap on the tailfin to fuselage join
- gaps on both wingroots
- the intakes don’t fit well
- the AIM-9 doesn’t fit correctly on the provided tab on the wingtip rail
- the air brakes on the bottom come with hinges but there are no provisions for them at the join
Other than these issues though, the rest fit well including the canopy which is a pleasant surprise after the last few builds.
Weapons-wise, I decided to add more air-to-air missiles for the kit because in the manga, Kazama was very particular about only wanting to join air-to-air missions as they offered more reward money. So I shelved my initial idea of loading 2x AGM-84 Harpoons and added 2x AIM-9s and 2x AIM-7 Sparrows instead. I modified the spare AIM-9 missile rails from my F-16C build to mount the Sparrows under the wings. I added pins to all the missiles so they will fit easier later.
Colors & Marking
Shin Kazama’s aircraft were usually in a dark blue over white color scheme. The Hasegawa instructions called for FS15050 for the blue and a bog standard white. I first did my usual priming in black and a marble coat in white. Painting white acrylics has always been hit and miss for me and this one was no different. But it was positively problem-free compared to the blue color.
I had a very old bottle of Model Master Acryl FS15050 Blue Angel Blue in my collection which came back and bit me in the ass. The pigment looked to have separated from the thinner and the finish turned out very badly. Serves me right for not having a paint mule to test paints. In any case, I sanded and buffed the offending paint and redid the blue using a custom mix of my various paints. Other than these ‘minor’ problems, the painting went swimmingly.
I figured Kazama didn’t have enough time to get his F-5E dirty before it crashed so I decided to call it done with just a panel wash. The landing gear attached without issues but the air brake door hinges needed to be cut off to fit. The canopy masking was then removed, with some overspray needing to be cleaned up. Then it was just the usual mounting of the stores starting from the inside to outside which went surprisingly smoothly this time. Praise the plastic gods!
And I’m done. This was a build of two halves: construction went well and fast. The rest… not so much. The result is not bad although the deep panel lines stand out to me. Anyway, what’s most important is I have another anime-related 1/72 ‘mecha’ in my collection.
Build 08 for 2021